Seven councillors resign from Liberal Democrats
Posted By: Wera Hobhouse
Date Posted: 05/12/2010
Over the last two weeks the Borough’s Liberal Democrat Council group has received a setback. First five councillors resigned after a controversial group meeting, during which they called for a vote of no confidence in the Leader, Irene Davidson, who was in hospital after major surgery.
Then two further councillors resigned over the next three days forcing Irene Davidson to resign as Leader of the Council. This has put not only the remaining 19 Liberal Democrats but politicians from all parties in a terrible state of uncertainty about the future of this borough.
So far I have stayed away from any public statement because I do not wish to engange in a big mud-slinging exercise. But I understand that people expect me to comment about the recent events.
Political parties are a great mixture of people who come together from all sorts of different corners and with different motivations, different skills, different strengths and weaknesses. Nobody asks us to be always best buddies and everybody involved in politics knows that politics is almost never free from some personal disappointments.
But even in politics there should be a bottom line of decent behaviour towards each other. This bottom line was definitely crossed by those seven people who forced their former colleague out of office while she was not in a position to defend herself, but in hospital recovering from major surgery.
The reason given for the walk out? The selection process. Every Lib Dem councillor in this borough is being asked before standing for election to go through a candidate application process. This is normal practice in almost all Lib Dem local parties and it was not new for our group. I went through it last year, so did every Lib Dem candidate. It ensures that the people who are put forward for election are of a decent standard and will be able to fulfill their roles adequately if elected. That such a selection process happens should be reassuring to the electorate.
In the case of our local application process the criteria are not especially strenuous. The fact that there were sitting councillors, who failed the application, speaks volumes about their ability not about the process. In any case they had the option to appeal about the fairness of the process. Instead they called for a vote of no-confidence in the leader and when the rest of the group did not agree to challenge a leader who was sick, they walked out.
The most puzzling reason for walking out came from the (former) portfolio holder for finance Greg Couzens. He states that he was unhappy with the leadership and the direction of the group. Hang on! He was part of the leadership and in a powerful position to give direction from the most influential position next to the Council Leader. I simply fail to understand what is going on in his mind; but surely he has fundamentally misunderstood what his role was in the last three years.
That Greg has now become the appointed leader of an independent group which allows him to claim extra money from the council like other party leaders, seems to speak for itself.
There is a glimmer of hope after all the disappointment about personal misjudgement and anger that this chaos leaves behind. The Liberal Democrats in this borough will be a fitter and more professional group. We will have to go through a period of reflection and proper regrouping. Us 19 remaining Lib Dem councillors will hopefully be able to demonstrate our continuing commitment to serve the people who have elected us; and hopefully we will convince our electorate that liberal democracy is alive and kicking here
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